Retro: Restoring Wicksteed Park’s lake area

Grab a place in history when Wicksteed Park’s lake reopens

One of the most eyecatching additions to Wicksteed Park when its £2m lake restoration project finishes later this month will be the sight of a new fleet of rowboats on the water.

Row boats on the Wicksteed Park lake (date of photo unknown)

Row boats on the Wicksteed Park lake (date of photo unknown)

Boating on the lake was one of the main attractions at the popular park when it was formally opened in 1921 by founder Charles Wicksteed as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.

The eight new boats will grace the water at the lake when the redevelopment work – supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – is completed at the end of April.

The park is now giving people the chance to name one of the new rowing boats.

The eight winners will each have their winning names, alongside their own name, on a boat for a minimum of a year and will also win a family day out at the park for four people.

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No Caption ABCDE NNL-140104-143125001

The boats are currently being built by famous Oxfordshire boat builders Salter’s, which has been building boats since 1858.

Community link manager Charlotte Widgery has been appointed, as part of the restoration project, to oversee a string of initiatives for the improved lakeside area.

She said: “Everywhere you look in the park there is a piece of history and we thought it would be a lovely idea to give people a chance to create their own little piece of history too.

“Their names will be associated with the historic lake restoration and people using the lake will see the winning names on the sides of the new boats.

“We want the names to be connected to Wicksteed Park’s history and be no more than two words long but the competition is open to everyone, young and old.”

When designing the park, Charles Wicksteed decided early on, in 1919, to create a 30-acre lake at the bottom of the park.

It took two years to complete and involved removing 3,000 tree stumps – all dug out by man and machine.

An existing nearby watercourse had to be redirected to fill the lake.

The process of creating the lake almost made Wicksteed bankrupt, but he was determined to finish it and he sold some of his land to finance the finished project.

The lake opened in 1921 at Whitsuntide, to large crowds who travelled far and wide to see the memorable occasion.

The lake proved a popular attraction and hosted regattas for many years as well as provided hours of leisure fun for park visitors.

Wicksteed’s love of the water led him to designing and building one of the first water-based rides in the world. The “Waterchute” opened in 1926.

There were only a few other additions to the lake until the 1990s, when the Nautic Jets ride was added.

The lake restoration will also include a new beach area where families can land a kayak and go off to explore other parts of the park and where people can paddle, unsupervised, in the lake.

The currently redundant roundhouse, a 1924 lakeside shelter, will be repaired, bringing it back into use as a focus for lakeside activities, and there will be the creation of a large amphitheatre, new pathways around the lake and arboretum, and the creation of water play areas for children.

To enter the competition, email your suggestion for a name for one of the boats to charlotte@wicksteedpark.co.uk or send a letter to the park marked FAO Charlotte Widgery, Wicksteed Park, Barton Road, Kettering, Northamptonshire NN15 6NJ.

The closing date for entries is Thursday, May 1 (winners will be notified within three weeks – judge’ decision final).